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Meet the Sommelier: Emilien Rebeilleau, Mr Wongs, Merivale

The fabulous Emilien Rebeilleau, Assistant Sommelier at Merivale's Mr Wongs talks to The Wine Pig about what it's like to work for one of Australia's most infamous restaurant businesses, his views on wine and COVID-19.

COVID-19 has been a huge challenge for the global wine and restaurant industries. What have you and Mr Wong/Merivale done to combat this?

Well the lock down has been quick so we first had to secure our stock in good condition within every building. Then we had time to think about how we could adapt ourselves to the situation. We started to offer our stock on hand to our regulars and VIP. Then Merivale at Home took place and we designed several package to match with the food we were offering.

The future of our wine industry looks uncertain and scary. What can we all do to help support it through these troubled times?

The entire world is in the same situation, there is not much we can do apart from supporting the wineries by drinking their wines.

You have been assistant head sommelier at Mr Wong since 2017. How did you land the role and what were you doing beforehand?

I started as a junior sommelier at Wong’s, by perseverance and hard work I climb every steps to arrive at my current position. Beforehand I had a head sommelier role back in France and a long experience in Buenos Aires Argentina mentored by Andres Rosberg, ASI president.

How do you work with the chefs and kitchen at Mr Wong to marry wine with the menu? What are your tips for menu pairing? What qualities do you look for?

At Mr Wong we don’t really pretend to match food and wine as it would be for a fine dining restaurant, I usually recommend my guest to have the wine they like with the food they like rather than me telling them to drink Chardonnay with their fish when they want to drink red. Now as Sommelier there is always a great satisfaction when a guest leave the wine chose to you. It allow us to show the large range of Wong’s list (+900 bins) and share our knowledges with them.

How and where do you source the wine for your menu?

We usually buy our wines from suppliers, it can be the winery straight up or a distributor/importer. Merivale is also importing their own wines from several country in the world in order to offer excusive wines to our guest, wines selected by our Senior Sommelier team and Master Sommelier.

What is your favourite wine on the current Mr Wong menu and why?

Wow, this is hard. Well I’m French so obviously Burgundy and Bordeaux have a huge place in my heart. Now I’d say that I’m enjoying looking for Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir, Clare Valley aged Riesling and Hunter Semillon (the oldest the better).

How do you analyse a wine, considering it is a very subjective and personal experience?

It is subjective but on the same time very simple, you like it or you don’t. Now a sommelier needs to approach it on another way, are my guest going to like it or not ? I personally do not drink the same wines that most of my guest drink, but we design the list for them.

It's a tough one, but if you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Well if is for the rest of my life it better be able to age well. Is this case I’d be happy to drink Marc Bredif Vouvray. His wine, made out of Chenin Blanc can last forever (we list 1969 at Mr Wong), it is also from the region I’ve born. I also did the harvest at Chateau Chauvin, St Emilion, in 2016. It was a fantastic vintage and with a huge age potential, I have a dozen back at home and would love to drink it bit by bit within the next 15 years.

What tips or advice do you have for a novice wine lover?

Ask yourself your own question and answer by studying and read. An most importantly never drink the same, the world of wine is everyday expending, there is so much to taste out there.

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